Festive Decor by Style
Whether bohemian, contemporary or farmhouse is your look, here's some just-right holiday decorating advice and inspo
Holiday decorating can feel like a departure from your home’s carefully cultivated style. With so many options available in stores—and, no doubt, bins full of family keepsake decorations stored in your garage—how do you shop and edit your collection to create a home for the holidays that feels authentically yours? We asked a trio of design experts how best to style your home in a way that welcomes new trends while honoring nostalgia.
Boho, ho, ho: Bohemian Festive Decor
Sonya Kemp, who co-owns the home goods shop Gold Leaf in South Park (@goldleafsouthpark) with her husband Kevin, likes quirky, eclectic decor that feels lived-in and fun. Her shop and her home are a blend of natural materials, vintage finds, and sun-washed shades of teal, pink and mustard.
“I like a modern bohemian aesthetic with some life to it,” Sonya says. “I definitely want you to feel like you’re finding a treasure.”
Sonya applies the same principals to her holiday decorating as she does to her everyday home design: “Let it build over time, let it evolve,” she says. For instance, she buys a few pieces annually to add to her personal collection, including one ornament for each of her children that she labels with their names.
“I think with boho, you buy things that you respond to. People will see something they love and say, ‘But I don’t have anywhere to put it.’ I don’t believe in that rule. If you love something, there’s somewhere to put it. It’s an organic process,” Sonya explains.
If the bohemian style is something a homeowner wants to emulate in their holiday trimmings, Sonya recommends playing with a range of colors, textures and shapes. “Vintage teal, pale pink, silver, gold and green are so pretty together and natural but whimsical,” she says.
Nature-derived materials such as rattan and bamboo can be interspersed, as can round and square furnishings and baubles.
Antiques like little toy soldiers mix well with homemade and keepsake ornaments. And don’t feel like the traditional tree is the only place to decorate—Sonya strings lights and ornaments from light fixtures, on a satin ribbon fastened to the mantel, on a potted rosemary tree from the grocery store, or clusters several together in a bowl on the table.
“Whatever you can do to bring that little bit of magic,” Sonya says.
Many of Sonya’s favorite holiday decorations were gifts from her grandmother, who lovingly wrote out the year and history behind each piece.
“It’s like a scrapbook. I’m not a proponent of a big box of ornaments that are all the same,” says Sonya, who believes in using heirlooms rather than keeping them carefully boxed up. “Ornaments break. Don’t be too precious about it. It can be such a nostalgic thing, but if it breaks, that’s OK, too.”
Cheers to Contemporary
Helen Bonar, owner of Kensington’s BENCH Home (@benchhome), keeps on top of the latest trends in holiday decor. When
Helen did her buying for this holiday season, she saw a wide variety of Christmas and Hanukkah pieces in deep blues and aquamarine.
“These colors are neat for us in San Diego because they feel kind of beachy,” Helen says. “And when you’re bringing in the blues, they layer in beautifully with silver and gold.”
Also on-trend for contemporary holiday homes are romantic and whimsical decorations like fuzzy stockings, scented candles, and warm, white lights, she says.
Helen builds a storyline when picking pieces for BENCH Home. This year’s holiday display focuses on “birds of a feather,” with fun feathers, pink flamingos and sparkling ornaments. Last year, deer statuettes covered in patchwork fabric were central to the store’s holiday look.
To keep her displays modern, she favors unifying color schemes and metallic sheens.
“I pick a color story and stay similar to that. It’s fun and easy to do an all-gold, all-silver or all-bronze theme,” Helen says. “I keep all different styles and price points in the shop. I want you to be able to grab a little something that makes you feel special.”
In her own home, Helen combines white lights and gold-colored holiday decor with family keepsakes like ornaments and a music box.
Greenery factors into her home’s design, too, for both the look and the scent of fresh cedar, eucalyptus and pine.
“I love foliage,” she says. “You can put something over the hearth or the door and it smells incredible.”
Pasha Accardi’s popular @pashaishome Instagram account draws thousands of followers who want a peek inside her modern farmhouse-style home in Carlsbad. An accountant by trade, Pasha says she draws inspiration from online retailers, home decor catalogs and celebrity designers like Joanna Gaines.
“I’ve always loved more cozy looks,” Pasha says. “What I love about the modern farmhouse style is it’s so simple and basic. It’s cozy while still being so clean.”
She enjoys redecorating her home for just about every occasion but has a special affinity for Christmas. Pasha has amassed a huge collection of decorations to deck the whole house, from wall hangings to dishes, throw pillows, holiday-themed bedding, lights, garlands and lots of wreaths.
“We do have a three-car garage with no cars in it,” she jokes.
To keep the look farm-fresh, she edits and commingles her long-held collection with her latest design scheme. Festive garland drapes a rustic plantation shutter above a sofa layered with coordinating plaid pillows of red and green. A vintage leaded-glass window hangs above a rough-hewn fireplace mantel dressed in tabletop trees, garland, bells, lights and old-fashioned stocking hooks.
“While I do have a lot of specific decor, I try not to have a lot of clutter. But I’ll admit at Christmastime, I don’t mind a little clutter,” Pasha says.
Pasha’s one major departure from her interior design style is the Christmas tree. Her ornaments represent her children’s first Christmases, fun vacations and family heirlooms. The tree is nostalgic but doesn’t necessarily exude modern farmhouse.
“We really do appreciate the sentimental pieces. I’m 100% sentimental,” she says.